Iconic high-end leisure wear co. Vineyard Vines sues Rehoboth tshirt shop to protect whale Logo

Source of this excerpt: DelawareOnline.com (Maureen Milford)

vineyardvines-trademark-Whales-4x3_delonline
[The News Journal]
The Connecticut brothers who built a successful clothing company that embodies the prepster lifestyle of Martha’s Vineyard have stirred up a nor’easter for a Rehoboth Beach T-shirt shop.

Vineyard Vines LLC, a company started by Ian and Shep Murray in 1998, has sued Rehoboth Lifestyle Clothing Co. for selling tops and sweatshirts that say “rehoboth” and are embroidered with big smiling whales. The jaunty-tailed whales bear a striking resemblance to the iconic trademark seen on the Murrays’ high-end ties, shirts, jackets, dresses and other products, the lawsuit alleges.

The way the Stamford, Connecticut, company sees it, Rehoboth Lifestyle is infringing on its registered trademark and diluting its “famous trademark,” according to a lawsuit filed in federal court. Vineyard Vines clothing, which has been spotted on movie stars and several presidents, is pricey, with a cotton dress shirt selling for $128 on the company’s website. […]

I doubt a court would find that the Vineyard Vines whale, even as popular, well-known and iconic as it may be, is indeed a “famous mark” as that term is defined under the Federal Trademark Dilution Act. Bigger ‘fish’ have tried and failed. The short list includes: XEROX, KODAK, COCA-COLA, and REEBOK.  Read more about trademark dilution and famous mark cases. But it seems that Vineyard Vines has a strong case in establishing the “likelihood” of confusion. Actual confusion of consumers is not required.

I was quoted in the article to explain why it is important for trademark owners to police and to protect their marks. The consequences of not doing so could be extremely costly to their brand and business. And the failure to police may also lead to “genericide”, causing the owners to lose their exclusive right to use the mark in connection with the sale of its goods and services. Common examples of well-known companies whose marks became generic

In the article, I also explained the general purposes of trademark law. Read the full article:

Whale war: Vineyard Vines, Rehoboth shop clash over logo

So what do you think? Are consumers likely to be confused, even if initially, by the local t-shirt company’s mirror-image, stylized pink whale? More specifically, is it more likely than not that some consumer might be confused? If so, what’s the harm?

~Prof TE~ Follow me on Twitter @IPProfEvans

Prof. Evans to explore intersection of copyright & probate law at Drake Law IP Roundtable

Headshot of Professor Tonya Evans
Credit: Leaping Lion Photography

Associate Professor Tonya Evans, who teaches Copyright and other intellectual property courses, as well as Wills, Trusts & Estates, and Property at Widener Law School-PA, will present her current work-in-progress at the annual Drake Law IP Roundtable in Des Moines, IA March 27-28th, 2015.

The article explores a nuanced intersection and incongruence between copyright and estate law. Professor Evans assesses the ability of a copyright creator to make, for estate planning or purely business reasons, lifetime transfers of her copyright interests into her trust or entertainment services loan-out corporation, or, perhaps, to a charitable organization as a gift, and identifies an apparently unfettered right of that copyright creator’s Statutory Heirs (as defined in the Copyright Act), who stand to inherit the transfer termination right, to effectively terminate the creator’s transfer and override her testamentary freedom and intent to dispose of copyright assets in some other way.  Continue reading “Prof. Evans to explore intersection of copyright & probate law at Drake Law IP Roundtable”

“If you die before you post”: A brief look at social media immortality

“Facebook announced a new policy allowing an executor to manage an account once a user has died. Up until now, Facebook only allowed an account to be “memorialized,” meaning it could still be viewed, but not edited or managed.” USAToday.com

This change in the Facebook Terms of Use is long overdue. But there are other postmortem opportunities (??) that present interesting (if not eerie) legal, moral and ethical questions. Food for thought for my Wills & Trusts class: Can the following service (IfIDie.net) provide a valid vehicle for testamentary disposition of assets under the UPC? Nevada’s Probate Code? ~ Professor Evans